Traffic, public transit, congestion, road construction and closures, I-35, MoPac, US 290, US 183, Ben White Blvd, and policy and planning issues related to transportation and mobility in Austin and the Central Texas counties of Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop and Williamson.

Spencer Selvidge for KUT News

Claudia Teran is late for class. She's waiting at the corner of 45th and Guadalupe streets for her bus. She's studying media at UT and the bus is her main way of getting around.

Her bus – the 1, a local route – is running a little late today, so she's late. But what if she could've known her bus was late? What if she could look up on her phone where her bus is right now? What if

Online, real-time bus tracking is one of a few improvements coming to Cap Metro buses that aim to keep drivers out of their cars and on public transit.

Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

This Election Day, Austin voters will decide on the largest single bond proposal in the city’s history. A little more than half of the $1 billion bond package would go towards a light rail line, the other half for road improvements.

Supporters say the package provides a solution to Austin’s traffic, but some wonder if building out more mass transit and expanding roads is really going to make a dent.

Spencer Selvidge/KUT News

Austin's "MetroRapid" buses are larger and, let's be honest, nicer than your typical bus. They've got more doors, for one, which makes for faster loading and unloading. You can look up when the next one's going to arrive on your smartphone. They have Wi-Fi, too. In January, the first line debuted, the 801, running up and down North Lamar and Congress. This week, the second one started up, the 803, going from the Domain down Burnet, through downtown and down South Lamar. 

The Rapid bus system is the first major transit project in Austin since the troubled rollout of the MetroRail red line several years ago.* That project was late, over budget and struggled to attract riders.

The rapid buses, however, started on time and under budget. But six months after the launch of the first rapid line, ridership in its corridor is down 16 percent from two years ago during the same period. (You can view the ridership numbers obtained by KUT below.)

"We certainly didn't want that to happen. We hoped that wouldn’t happen. But it did happen," says Todd Hemingson, Vice President of strategic planning and development with Capital Metro.

So why, after premiering shiny new buses with plenty of features, did ridership go down in the corridor?

Norihiro Kataoka

For years, the Japanese company behind the world’s first and busiest high-speed rail system has been itching to enter the U.S. high-speed rail market, hoping to sell one of the world’s ripest passenger rail markets on its breathtakingly fast Shinkansen bullet trains.

But with Central Japan Railway’s efforts to sell high-speed trains on the U.S. coasts going nowhere, Texas has emerged as the company’s best hope for introducing its wildly successful technology to the American market.

A major transportation plan took a significant step forward Thursday when the Austin City Council voted unanimously to put it on the November ballot.

It’s a billion-dollar proposition. Voters would agree to a $600 million bond for a 9.5-mile urban rail line, contingent upon two conditions: matching funds from the Federal Transit Administration or another federal or state source, and a future city council securing $400 million dollars for road projects. The ordinance does not specify a source for the additional $400 million.

From The Austin Monitor:

Supporters of the State Highway 45 Southwest toll road project showed up in the hundreds Tuesday night at a Texas Department of Transportation public hearing on the project's draft environmental impact statement.

While vocal opponents of the project – including the City of Austin and Save Our Springs Alliance – denouncing the draft's conclusions and data during the hearing, the majority of comments were in favor of the roadway, receiving cheers and applause from the largely pro-45 crowd inside Bowie High School's cafeteria.

Senate Approves $8 Billion Transportation Package

Jul 30, 2014

The Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would keep transportation dollars flowing until December. But it has not yet solved the problem of how to avoid any disruption in highway spending.

Texas Department of Transportation

Austin City Manager Marc Ott has asked the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to reconsider its environmental impact study on State Highway 45 Southwest.

The proposed extension would connect South MoPac and FM-1626 in northern Hays County.

In a letter to TxDOT, Ott also asked the department to expand the public comment period ahead of tonight's final public input meeting at Bowie High School.

Updated at 10:05 p.m. ET.

The Air Algerie MD-83 en route from the capital of Burkina Faso to Algiers with 116 passengers and crew aboard has been found with no survivors.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, reporting for our Newscast team, that a presidential aide in neighboring Burkina Faso says the remains of the missing aircraft have been found just across the border in Mali, in an isolated area about 60 miles south of the town of Gao.

Joanne Nabors via Twitter

Half a foot of rain pelted the city of Austin and the surrounding area last night, with rainfall totals topping out at seven inches in the Walnut Creek area and Downtown Austin receiving a bit less than five inches of rain.

The National Weather Service’s flash flood warning for Travis and Williamson Counties expired before 5 a.m., but the city’s still tackling flooded roadways in Spicewood Springs. Additionally, Austin-Travis County EMS used a helicopter to evacuate 13 campers stranded on the Colorado River, dropping them safely near Webberville Road. Below, you can view the latest flood updates, and a list of downed trees, delayed public transportation and power outages in Austin.

Reynaldo Leanos/KUT

Can you compare a 1949 Hudson car to America’s aging infrastructure?

Best-selling author and award-winning journalist Dan McNichol thinks so – and says it's time to rebuild.

McNichol is driving an antique Hudson across the United States for several months, traveling 11,000 miles with stops in cities including Boston, San Diego, Washington and Austin to raise awareness about the state of America’s infrastructure – and what can be done about it.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

These days Austin is known as much for traffic as it is for live music or five-hour-long barbecue lines. 

If you've been commuting in Austin for a while, you might have noticed the traffic isn't exactly getting better. Despite flirtations with building a six-lane highway, constructing a long overdue urban rail system and even "sequestering" I-35 under concrete, commute times are not only stagnant, they're getting worse. In 2011, the state commissioned a study on major roadways which found — despite all those improvements — it could take Austin commuters up to three hours to get to Round Rock by 2035. 

Jon Shapley for KUT News

The Austin Police Department will be monitoring the roads extra carefully this weekend, and enforcing a "no refusal" mandate; law enforcement will be able to quickly obtain a warrant to test the blood-alcohol level of any suspected drunk driver who objects to a Breathalyzer or blood test.

Fourth of July revelers who don’t think they’ll make fit drivers this weekend will have their pick of get-home-safe cards.

1. Capital Metro has some late-night options, including year-round Night Owl buses that run until 3 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Night Owl services travel five different routes between popular spots on 6th Street and city neighborhoods.

Congress has yet another problem it can't solve.

For years, the main federal transportation program has been spending more money than it takes in. This year, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the Transportation Department will disburse $45 billion while collecting only $33 billion for its Highway Trust Fund.

As a result, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx warned states on Tuesday that they will start seeing cuts of 28 percent in federal funding for roads and bridges next month unless Congress comes up with some extra money.

North Carolina Department of Transportation

State transportation authorities announced this week that they received the green light to build a $6.7 million "diverging diamond interchange" at I-35 and University Blvd. in Round Rock. That's an area that gets a lot of traffic, partly because it's near the only IKEA in Central Texas and the Round Rock Premium Outlets, among many other retail businesses.


Austin already has a ban on texting behind the wheel, but phones these days are labeled "smart" for a reason — they can text, tweet,  Snapchat and steer drivers toward a plethora other distracting drive-time activities.

But now the city is asking for advice on possible changes to its distracted driving ordinance. And it could adopt an all-encompassing ban on mobile phone use behind the wheel, including a ban on hands-free devices.

Callie Hernandez/KUT

Much attention has been placed on Austin City Council’s unanimous vote to endorse an urban rail plan for Austin. But $400 million of a proposed transportation bond that could reach voters in November is for road improvements as well.

Here's a breakdown of spending proposals, culled from the 2014 Austin Strategic Mobility Plan:

The largest chunk of the approved road package is $120 million to improve downtown access from I-35, with new access ramps and separate lanes for local and pass-through traffic. This portion would also cover improvements to an interchange at Riverside  Drive.

Project Connect

By a unanimous vote – Austin city council endorsed a package of proposed transportation projects Thursday night, including a $1.4 billion dollar urban rail line

The Austin City Council limited public comment on urban rail to 30 minutes for each side, which angered some public transit advocates who support the concept of urban rail but reject the proposed route of the plan. 

Project Connect

Capital Metro voted Monday to move forward with recommendations from Project Connect. The next steps are deciding who will govern its potential urban  rail operations and where some of the funding will come from. The City of Austin and Capital Metro are both major players.

But while Project Connect moved a step forward, there was a push from the Cap Metro board to take a step back.

After dozens of public meetings and no shortage of criticism, Project Connect arrived at a proposed route for its urban rail that would go from Riverside to Highland Mall. On Monday, Capital Metro Board Chair Mike Martinez asked for analysis on a whole new route, from Austin-Bergstrom International to UT.

Project Connect

The Austin City Council and the Capital Metro Board met today to learn more about a proposed urban rail route that needs approval from the council – and ultimately, Austin voters. There are still concerns about how to pay for the project.

Project Connect is looking at adding rail, buses and other options to the transit system in Central Texas. But the project's proposed plan for downtown Austin is still contentious because it favors a route that would bring urban rail through East Riverside and up to Highland Mall at a cost of almost $1.4 billion.